Working Paper 172 - Political Economy of Service Delivery: Monitoring versus Contestation

Publishing Date 14/06/2013
Authors Kjell Hausken, Mthuli Ncube

Categories: Economic & Financial Governance

Download File (0.9 MB)

Working Paper 172 - Political Economy of Service Delivery: Monitoring versus Contestation (0.9 MB)


The decentralization of public service delivery often creates local government structures and bureaucracies that fail to deliver the required level of services to local populations. These local government structures involve various strata, such as the municipal level, district level, council level and province level. The goals of decentralization are to transfer real power to the districts and improve accountability at the local level; to bring administrative control over services at the local level; to establish a stronger link between payment of taxes by citizens and provision of services; and to enable local governments to plan, finance, and manage the delivery of services to their respective constituencies. These services include primary health care, education, water and road infrastructure, agriculture extension services, and security and law and order.   

This paper analyzes this phenomenon in a model of power contestation at the local level which results in low services delivery. The model is set up in such a way that each monitor has, at its disposal, resources that can be allocated to monitoring or political contestation. Monitoring earns a salary proportional to the amount of monitoring. On the other hand, political contestation gives a fraction of power, expressed as rent and determined by the relative amount of political contestation exerted by all monitors.

In the model a one-to-one mapping from monitors to public service providers (teacher, doctors) is assumed. Therefore, if a monitor monitors x% of the time, the teacher or doctor being monitored spends x% of the time teaching or delivering medical services. As a result, with 100% monitoring, then teachers/ doctors monitored experience the monitoring regularly and respond by doing their respective public duties 100% of the time. Similarly, with 0% monitoring, teachers and doctors are left to do as they please. This, of course, assumes that the system of monitoring is set-up such that it operates adequately if all monitors carry out their duties to their fullest capacity. Consequently, for immediate degree of monitoring that falls between 0% and 100%, the degree of proportionality maps directly over to the degree of teaching and delivery of medical services.

The study finds that a monitor engages in political contestation than other monitors when his unit cost of monitoring is high, his unit cost of political contestation is low, or his proportionality parameter is for his salary form monitoring is low. Moreover, an unresourceful monitor does not monitor. The less–resourceful monitor does not carry out his duties when his interior equilibrium resource expenditure from political contestation exceeds his resource capability. As the monitor becomes resourceful,  he monitors to the extent that his unit cost of monitoring is low. Intuitively, a monitor enagages more in political contestation as the rent obtainable through political contestation becomes more valuable.

The paper argues that the intensity of political contestation enhances the ratio between the monitor’s unit costs of monitoring and political contestation and the proportionality parameters for their monitoring salaries. For common benchmark parameter values, where the monitors are equally matched, increased intensity causes higher political contestation. Contrastingly, when the monitors are unequally matched, increased intensity causes lower political contestation due to strength or weakness.

Within the modelling framework provided, the study uses data for education and healthcare services in Tanzania and Senegal to show the seriousness of poor service delivery. In both countries teachers spend far less than the designated time teaching students and health professionals spend a marginal amount of time per-day to attend to care seekers. The study acknowledges that political contestation cannot be erradicated. However, knowledge of factors that influence how monitors allocate resources between monitoring and political contestation can help to minimize the extent and impacts of political contestation.

Download File (0.9 MB)

Working Paper 172 - Political Economy of Service Delivery: Monitoring versus Contestation (0.9 MB)